Tomorrow, qualification for the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500 will begin, and drivers will enjoy a little extra something-something during their four solo laps around the speedway. For the race, the cars will have approximately 550 horsepower at their disposal. During qualification, also known as time trials, the turbo boost pressure for the Honda and Chevrolet V6s will increase from 130 kPa to 140 kPa (18.84 PSI to 20.29 PSI), providing approximately 45 extra horsepower. The cars will use the same engines, a sharp difference from the days of 1000 horsepower qualification-only engines at Indy, but is the difference still too great?
Raising the boost pressure for time trials provides a better spectacle for fans and interesting data for engineers, but it means the qualification formula will not be the race formula used eight days later. The discrepancy is not unique to Indycar. Just last year, Formula 1 allowed unlimited use of DRS on any part of the track during qualifying, and this year still allows it within the DRS zone, even if the driver currently sits in the provisional pole position.
Fans called for F1 to change the rules for DRS during qualification because DRS everywhere was just a gimmick, but F1 races on road and street courses, where qualifying position actually matters. On a 2.5 mile oval, where Dario Franchitti can win after being spun on pit lane, changing the qualification formula has a negligible impact on the race while adding a little extra spice to watching a single car drive in a circle.
I think the qualification formula should match the race formula. If Indycar wants to have cars qualifying at 230 MPH, the should allow them to race at 230 MPH, even if just for the 500. But I'm not here to convince you I'm right. If you think extra boost is a gift, please comment below and help me change my mind. If you think extra boost is a gimmick, share your reasoning as well.
Photo Credit: Road & Track